In many ways, life is like a road trip – a constant transition to somewhere else, sometimes stopping, but always moving forward to the next destination. In this episode, Jason Wrobel catches up with Whitney Lauritsen and their mutual friend, Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart, just after Whitney and Leanne concluded a life-changing, 10-day, cross-country trip that led them to many realizations. Being in a time of transition in their careers, the trip was a perfect time for them to mull over the direction they are taking their lives in. This episode is a deep, uncomfortable dive into the conscious states of these ladies that is full of deep and meaningful reflections about life. If you think Jason missed out on this trip, you’re the one who will miss out a lot if you skip this episode, so listen in!
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Life Lessons From A 10-Day Cross-Country Journey With Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart
Truth be told. I don’t feel like I get a full mode that often in life. There are specific situations and things that come up in the world, my reality, my life experience where I feel a significant amount of FOMO. Readers, if you don’t know what FOMO is, it’s an acronym for Fear Of Missing Out when something is going on in life, where other people are doing something you want to be involved in and it doesn’t quite happen. If you have been a reader of this show, we had teased an upcoming cross-country road trip by my dear co-host, Whitney Lauritsen, and our amazing mutual friend, Leanne. Over the course of the road trip with these two amazing women, I have been battling a little bit of FOMO. I am a huge fan of road trips, and luckily, they kept me in the loop with lots of photos, videos, and updates on their adventures, which made me feel included.
We are going to dive into their journey, adventures, ins, outs, concerns, challenges, revelations, amazement and surprises that they experienced on their ten-day cross-country road trip, which is under the backdrop of many things happening in the world. COVID being one, different state quarantines, massive wildfires on the West Coast, and the hurricanes in the Gulf Coast. There’s a lot going on planet Earth now. I’m super stoked to be taking the baton and running with the ladies on this episode to hear more interesting details about your adventure. Now that you are both grounded back into your destinations in the world after this road trip has concluded, the first obvious question is how are you both feeling? Are you feeling exhausted or jubilant? Is it like a hangover feeling? What are you both experiencing on the tail-end of being home and settled in?
It’s hard to answer that question because every day since I got back has felt a little different physically even though it’s been days. My sense of time has also been skewed around. It’s hard to describe. I don’t know if you feel that way, Leanne, but it’s like diving into life again, after being on the road. It feels interesting, but I’m visiting my parents. It’s also like getting used to being here again, which is disorienting in general whenever I come to visit. Going from a big city in Los Angeles to a small town in Massachusetts and being with my family who I haven’t seen in a while, and then you throw COVID into the mix, that’s a whole other experience. Physically, I’ve been trying to catch up on sleep. That has been the priority. I feel like my physical needs have come over and had a bigger priority than my emotional and mental needs. I feel like once I get my physical needs met, then I’ll be able to process it all emotionally. How about you, Leanne?
It’s like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was exactly what you said. Our base is physical needs, which we had to live a completely different lifestyle for ten days and getting that situated first before I can process it. I told someone, “That was a life-changing trip and a life-changing ten days.” He was like, “How so?” I was like, “I’m going to have to get back to you on that because it is still unclear.” Maybe we’ll talk about it and figure some of that out in this episode. There are many things and now is such a transitional time in the world and in life. Getting back from a completely different lifestyle and into my life, which is in such transition, is a discombobulating space to be. I don’t think I even know how to sleep now. I’m not sleeping in a normal way. I am trying to figure out how to get back to a grounded place.
First of all, I appreciate both of you coming from such an authentic, honest place with how you’re feeling. My curiosity is more that you both kept such a wonderful job of keeping me in the loop. It’s almost like you guys knew I was going to have FOMO so you kept sending me pictures and videos, which I appreciated. On one hand, I care and love deeply for you both. I felt like it was a way of you checking in. It was like a sixth love language. I felt good knowing you were both safe and you were both okay.
The curious part of it to me, especially with the backdrop of all the transitions which I want to get into talking about identity and career and some of the machinations that we’re all going through. With your overall experience, I know you’re both processing it. I know you’re both recovering physically, but I’m going to dig a little bit deeper under the hood a little. Did the road trip feel like an escape? Did it feel like an opportunity to be still and reflect? Did it also feel stressful and a little bit like, “How are we going to do this? How are we going to make meals? How are we going to stay clean? How are we going to keep our hygiene intact?” Was it a combination of all of those things? Overall, what was the experience of the road trip?
I don’t have a driver’s license and I have not been taking the subway. I’ve been getting around walking, which limits where I can go. After months of staying close to my apartment in Brooklyn, taking this trip felt like a huge adventure. Whitney and I kept talking about it that time was fascinating. In quarantine, one interesting thing happens in a week and it was like ten interesting things happened in an hour. Every day felt like more than a week. It was a lot. Also. what that did to the experience, something that you spoke to, Jason, insightfully is that there wasn’t time to think about much. I felt something amazing about it. I felt present.
There wasn’t time to think about other things or get distracted because we were focused on staying on schedule and functioning on many different levels that are typically basic and automatic. It was similar to how quarantine was, to begin with, where all of a sudden, all these things that are automated or normal in our lives we have to think about like how to pee, how to eat, how to exist and how to sleep. All of those basic things we had to refigure out. That took a lot of focus and being super present and a lot of problem-solving. It was like nothing was given. For that experience to be constant for ten days, it was its own present and fresh life experience where we had to be alive and present during that whole thing, which itself was special. I don’t know, Whitney, if you felt the same way.
I did. I was thinking if I were to do something on that trip, it probably would have been putting less focus on getting to the next destination because that was something that came up a lot in my head. It was like, “I want to stay on track with the schedule and we have to get to this place by this time.” A lot of times, it was trying to get somewhere before the sun went down so we could camp and set up our tents and all that, which never happened on schedule. It was interesting. It also required us to constantly adapt and let go of some of the scheduling that we did. Time was also interesting too because we had planned so much ahead of time. Leanne and I had one day of a 9 or 10-hour planning session on Zoom because we were both in separate places.
We got on Zoom and we looked at the whole map. We talked about we were going to camp each night, how far we were going to drive, and what we wanted to see and do. If we were going to try to meet up with anybody, how would we do that during COVID and be physically distanced? There were a lot of considerations. We probably spent twenty hours planning the trip across a short amount of time because this trip happened fast. Leanne, do you remember what day it was that you reached out to me about the trip? It was maybe the third week of August and initially, we were going to leave on the 31st or the 1st of September. We had little time.
It was on August 20th. We were originally planning to leave on the 31st, which would have been eleven days later. It was amazing that even though that’s when I would end up around near enough to LA that then we could start the ten-day cross-country trip together. It was like, “You had to get your car serviced,” and the servicing couldn’t happen until the 31st, so it was going to be a few days after that, then we could leave. You were suggesting that if I stayed in LA for those days, would that be okay? It was fascinating that much of this trip came together quickly, but also the things that didn’t go as planned were better.
Having nearly a week to finalize all the plans and figuring all the things together while I was in LA, but over Zoom was amazing. We needed every one of those minutes and those days. It was like, “How about I’ll end up on the West Coast around the 31st?” “That would be great. Let’s start then.” It was exactly what we needed to be able to have almost a full week to finalize all the details. I’m amazed by life when things go like that.
Going back to what I was starting to say. After we started this planning like she’s talking about, how everything was falling into place, that was one of the big lessons with this trip is that trust is a huge thing. This came up a lot. We ended up having many deep conversations about ourselves and our lives. We are listening to audiobooks, which was magical. In fact, to get off on another little tangent, I knew that was going to happen. I thought there’ll be a period of time where we get sick of talking or we’ll have a lot of quiet or we’ll listen to music. We barely listened to any music the entire trip. We listened to audiobooks, but we would pause them every couple of minutes to have a discussion around.
That blew my mind how much we ended up having discussions throughout this whole ten days. One of the things that came up a lot was how I struggled with trust. I’ve realized that about myself over time. One of the reasons that I plan a lot is to make me feel safer. I knew also that there were going to be things that came up that were out of my control, that would surprise us. For the most part, things stayed on schedule, give or take a few hours or a few little last-minute changes and nothing majorly went wrong. We’ll talk about some challenges we had, but we overcame all of those. That was a good exercise to trust in a lot of ways. This experience of time, the one thing I would have shifted in hindsight is being less concerned with when we got somewhere and how we got somewhere and went more along with the journey and be present as Leanne was talking about.
I think I did the best job with that that I could have, but looking back, I almost regret it. There was one time, for example, when we were driving to Denver and we ended up in 1.5 to 2 hours of traffic that we did not expect. I also knew that that was a possibility, but I was beating myself up at one point because I missed a turn in the GPS. I was like, “If I hadn’t missed that turn, maybe I could have avoided all this traffic.” I remember also in that experience, our friends that we were meeting up with were understanding. One of them lived in Denver. We gave her a heads up when we were going to get there. Another one was going to visit. We ended up camping with a friend that met us in the Denver area and he was so laid back. In my head, I’m like, “Why was I worried about this traffic that we’re in and the time that we got there when everything was okay?” That was one of the big lessons is that everything ended up okay, even if it felt stressful at the time.
Also, we maybe found one of the most beautiful peace spots during that drive. It was one of those things where there was bumper-to-bumper traffic. I had been napping and then I woke up and you had to pee. With our newfound expertise of peeing outside, it was stunning. We pulled over and found some woods. When I looked out over the entire Colorado skyline of trees and mountains. I realized that it looked much like my shower curtain at home because that’s exactly what I love to look at. If we hadn’t been stuck in that traffic, we would not have seen the most beautiful tree-lined mountain view, which is beautiful that I have a shower curtain of it. I think that it worked out and our friends were cool about it.
I have many questions. When I travel, and Whitney and I have had some experiences like this where it’s like, “I don’t want to leave.” It’s almost a feeling of such connection, peace, tranquility, joyfulness, stillness and a lot of different emotions. Are there any places that stood out in that like, “Can we stay here?” type of emotion. Second, I’m curious how this has colored your relationship to the big city. Leanne, being on the East Coast, New York City, and Whitney and I were living in Los Angeles, which has its own set of challenges at the moment. How did you feel being in a different environment as opposed to being in the urban jungle?
The first place that comes to mind that I wish that we had spent more time at was at this beach. It was called Lone Rock Beach. It’s right on the border of Arizona in Utah. It was neat because Leanne had discovered this place. I’ll share my version, first. We’ve already told this story a few times to friends and I love listening to Leanne describes this, but my version is that we were basing all of our campsites on our charging stations. Since we took my Tesla, we had to be mindful of making sure there was enough charge to get from one station to another. My mind was blown with the experience. Jason and I did our road trip in 2019 to Colorado, but it felt like such a small trip in comparison to this one.
Probably because this one was over twice as long and we were staying in hotels and driving short distances in between charge stops. Whereas the idea of driving over 3,000 miles when it was all said and done from Los Angeles to Massachusetts. That feels daunting. I know that people have done it. I knew it could be done, but I still wondered how hard it would be. Luckily, Tesla makes it fairly easy to plan ahead of time because you can go on their website and they have a trip planner. I went on there and plotted out some of the major spots we were going to go to, but there were a lot of variables. This is why it took so long for us to plan is because we had to look up campsites.
Originally, we were using this website called Hipcamp, which is great. It’s like an Airbnb for camping. The problem with Hipcamp that we discovered as we were planning this trip is that they would only tell you the general area. The first campsite we were going to stay at turns out it was far away. Me being concerned about time and charging, I didn’t know if it was worth the risk. We had to start looking for alternatives outside of Hipcamp. The other big thing is I had no idea how many campsites there were. It’s funny because that shows my inexperience with camping, but the entire drive we would pass by campsites constantly.
When we were planning this trip, I didn’t realize that there were that many options. In hindsight, I’m like, “We didn’t need to be that concerned.” The only thing is you have to reserve some of these places ahead of time. On our second night, we could not find a Hipcamp nearby. Leanne also wasn’t feeling super confident about where we’re going to stay because some of the places she found didn’t take reservations. They were first come first serve. I’m thinking, “This does not sound good.” This is why I’m curious to hear your hindsight because my perspective was like you were feeling like this probably wasn’t going to happen and we had backups. Leanne also researched a couple of other places and thank God for that because I was overwhelmed with some of the other planning.
I was grateful to have Leanne doing all that work because as an inexperienced camper, the idea of trying to find a campsite felt stressful to me. This is the huge advantage of traveling with someone else who likes to research like Leanne does. She found a spot. She said, “It’s got great reviews, but we probably shouldn’t plan on staying there because it’s first come first serve.” We weren’t going to get there until between 6:00 and 7:00 PM. We based our day on getting there as early as possible. We also didn’t want to rush the day. We were trying to find the balance and it’s starting to get dark. It’s around sunset time we pulled up. I remember we pulled in there and we are driving down this long dirt road.
We see the area and there are all these people camping, but it looks like there was plenty of space, which surprised me because I thought there was going to be a sign up as soon as we got there that says, “Sorry, we’re full.” I was expecting that, but also hoping that wouldn’t be the case. In fact, I was even trying to visualize us getting there, and maybe we were going to be the last ones in to get a spot. I didn’t realize how big this camping spot was. We pulled in and we realized that we can camp there. Leanne, I’m going to leave the next part of the story for you about your adventure separately from that. This ended up being one, if not my favorite places, because of all the magic we experienced there. I want to know, Leanne, what you were thinking as well as the then and now in hindsight. I would also love for you to share that little story of the people that helped you out when we got there.
I remember the first night we stayed in a state campground, I barely slept because there were these parents partying at one tent spot over from us. I was extra anxious about being able to sleep the second night. I remember when you had said that we need to be near Page, Arizona, I was like, “There are no Hipcamps. There’s nothing that I can find, except these three first come first serve state park places to camp,” or maybe national park. It’s Labor Day weekend. All of the recommendations are like, “If you want to camp in first come first serve, you should make sure to get there by noon because that’s the time people leave from the night before.”
I was like, “We’re not going to get there by noon. It’s Labor Day weekend and it’s going to be Saturday. People will be camped from Friday. There’s no way.” First of all, I was like, “This is probably like a normal camping spot, which isn’t different than any other camping spot.” I then remember the second time we were planning and looking over everything, I googled this Lone Rock Beach in Page, Arizona and I was blown away. The reviews were like, “This is the best place ever. You’re camping literally on the beach. There are all these huge rock formations. It’s beautiful.” I was like, “I had no idea that this wasn’t a random thing that we found because there was a location that you gave for charging nearby.”
We ended up finding this magical beach. It was special. We’re driving in and you were being positive. You were talking about how we had planned and we did our best so let’s visualize that we get there and it’s there and there’s a spot for us. I was like, “I don’t know if there is a spot for us.” I remember we were driving up and the gate said, “Closed” I thought that meant the beach was closed, but it meant that the office or whatever was closed. There was no one there. We drove through and then as we were driving down, this is when we saw the beach. It was sunset and it was pink and purple. We realized that maybe we did need to get a ticket. I remember we were excited and then I was like, “I see these people. Let me ask them.”
I asked them, “Do we need some ticket because there was no one at the ticket booth upfront?” They were like, “There’s a machine. You need to get a ticket.” I was like, “I don’t know how to get back up there.” They’re in their four-wheelers and they’re getting their goggles on and they’re like, “It’s cool. Come with us. We’re going to go up there anyway.” I was like, “That’s great.” It was an open-air vehicle that they would drive around in the sand for fun at sunset. They drove me up there and I was able to get the ticket and come back down. They were sweet strangers. Once I was back, I remember running down to the beach. Our minds were blown at this accidental, perfect rock beach that we got to stay at with the prettiest sunset. It was beautiful.
It was one of those places that I didn’t want to leave. I felt sad that we didn’t have that extra time set aside. Another big lesson I learned in hindsight is I thought ten days was more than enough. Most people I’ve told about this trip were like, “You took ten days to travel cross country?” I also got some people that either said, “That sounds like a nice trip or a nice vacation.” Some people said, “That’s all you’re taking with everything that you’re doing.” The other lesson is it would have been nice if we had a buffer day because we did do buffer time so that we had an extra hour or so each day in case we got off track, which ended up helping us. On some days, we thought we had more time and then ended up getting to places super late. That was because of miscalculations and things like that. It all worked out for sure.
Thinking about it, I don’t know how we would have baked in an extra day because the trick was not that we were in a rush to get back East. It was more we needed to plan other campsites and because you had to reserve a lot of those ahead of time, you couldn’t spontaneously decide to stay someplace an extra day. It would have a whole ripple effect. Some of these places had strong policies that if you didn’t show up, you get charged for both nights or something. Even if you didn’t end up staying there, you still had to pay for it. That put on a little bit of pressure. Something I would like to research for future camping trips is can you book when you get there? How many places allow you? I suppose that is risky because if it’s booked up, then you need to figure out something else to do, but it does allow you to be a little bit more spontaneous. That would have been fun for times like that beach that we found.
I’m curious, why ten days? Was it a completely arbitrary thing that you both were like, “Ten days sounds good?” Was there a much more intentional choice behind that number of days?
It might have been partially arbitrary or I did the math at the very beginning, but then when we sat down to plan it, at first, we thought it was going to be eleven days once we got in-depth, but we realized we screwed up the math and we had an extra day in there. Ten days started to be more of the aim for us simply because as soon as we decided it was going to be ten days, we wanted to stick to that. When it came to budgeting and all of that, it felt like if we add any more days in, we have to camp another night, buy more food, charge more, or whatever else along the way. Maybe it wouldn’t have needed to charge that much more for an extra day, but it was that concern of if we add too much time and it’s going to be pricey. One thing that we were thinking a lot about was the cost involved.
The good news is this trip was significantly less expensive than we thought. We had a buffer in our budget too. It ended up coming under $200 less than we had planned, which was awesome. For a ten-day trip, it was super affordable for everything that we did. Leanne, we haven’t talked about this since we figured out the final costs of it, but I felt good about what we spent and we got creative. We also had the support of many brands. We can certainly talk about some of the brands in this episode, but I want to do a whole episode in everything that we used. Leanne, since you might only be on this episode, I would love to hear what things you were super grateful for. Before we get to that, how did you feel about the day? Did you feel like ten days was right for us? Would you have changed that at all in hindsight? Would you have added more time? How did you feel about the budget?
At first, you threw out there 7 or 8 days. I can’t remember how long a cross-country trip was before, but something about 7 or 8 days seemed right. I don’t know why, but I felt like maybe 1.5 weeks seemed we would have a little more space. It was still packed. I’ve never taken a cross-country trip before. It was mind-blowing the fact that we started on one coast and ended on the other in the same vehicle with the same beings. That was crazy to me. My mind could barely understand it. To do that in ten days was amazing. Any more days, unless we space it out or made it 2 or 3 weeks, felt right. It’s hard to say that if it had been longer, but I don’t think it could have been any shorter.
We had a lot that we wanted to get done, but we also enjoy it too. There was that day that a friend of mine had messaged me when he saw that we were going. We were leaving Denver and he was like, “You’re going to drive through the Badlands.” I remembered going there as a kid. I was like, “Are we going to drive through the Badlands?” Whitney, you looked at a map and you were like, “We can,” and we did. If we had less than ten days, we wouldn’t have been able to do something like that. We had a little extra space in there where it ended up being that we got to our campsite super late, but we were pros by that point setting everything up. We did ten days so we were able to take an extra hour and see all these amazing animals and all this beautiful land.
That was important to our trip, not just checking things off the box, but being there and enjoying it and adding things that we hadn’t planned and hadn’t expected. As far as the budget goes, I was blown away. Since I got back, it made me want to eat Amy’s soup and it felt luxurious because we wouldn’t have been able to heat up Amy’s soup on the trip. I felt like it was a luxury thing, but I appreciated it. We ate two meals in the car every day and maybe more and we made them in the car. I was shocked at how low our budget was in total, including having that lifestyle that still felt fun and good. I felt good about that. I was blown away when I looked at our total budget.
The budget also included us eating out sometimes, which as vegan food lovers, Leanne and I wanted to be able to try some restaurants across the country, which is interesting too. Normally, I would have been excited to do that, but on this trip, I felt unattached to it. That made it feel a little bit more magical when we did end up going to a good place. As Leanne said a little bit, it has shown me much gratitude. That was one of the best parts of this trip is because we are living minimally, not just money-wise, but we didn’t have a ton of room. My car is a small sedan and we could have put more in there. It was complicated as it was already to figure out the configuration of what was in the car versus what was in the tent.
I’m glad that we didn’t have a ton more stuff in there, even though technically it would have fit. It would have made it much more complicated. We didn’t have a ton of equipment since we didn’t have a lot of time and that limited our abilities to get certain things. For example, one of the first things I did was reach out to brands to see who would be interested in sending us products. I’m going to be doing this whole roundup on YouTube and blog posts and Instagram. Leanne has been documenting throughout the trip already. We wanted to feature all these incredible brands that made travel-friendly and camp-friendly, vegan and-ecofriendly products. We maybe had fifteen days total to plan, maybe less because we left on the fourth. We probably had exactly two weeks to plan this big trip.
Reaching out to brands and getting them to say yes, and then to send us products felt rushed. There were some things that we were waiting for that were food-related and some brands I never heard from. Those seem to be the brands that had high demands. I reached out to a few brands that made camping food where you can put boiling water into them. I was concerned about how we were going to eat on this trip so I was trying to find, what was the easiest way to eat food on the go and to find high-quality vegan food along the way? Many of these camping brands are sold out either because people are traveling more or because these brands are great for when you’re staying at home because they’re shelf-stable.
We weren’t able to get some of the cool camping food brands, but one of the best decisions we made was to get instant soup. She mentioned Amy which we did consider bringing, but we would’ve had to bring a pot or a pan and some way to heat it up. I had zero experience with propane burners. We did end up having an experience with that during one camp night, but that’s a separate story. I didn’t end up buying the propane burners that are typical for camping because I didn’t know which one to buy. I didn’t know if we would even use it. I thought it was too risky. There was one cool thing that I wanted that I reached out to the brand, but they weren’t able to make happen. They make these portable cups that can heat up water and food in in the car. You plug it into the 12-volt adapter in your car and it can heat things up.
That was awesome, but that wasn’t something we were able to coordinate. I said to Leanne, “We’re going to have to get creative with this.” If we’re not going to rely on eating out, which would require more food and a lot of planning of us figuring out where to eat for all three meals, we wanted to bring as much as possible in the car with us. We ended up getting a bunch of instant soups where you just add hot water to them. I got Dr. McDougall’s, which is a brand that I loved for a long time. Leanne got a few other soup brands, including Annie Chun’s and the Vegan Options they have their noodles. We had to become bold and get hot water somewhere. Leanne said, “You can do that at the gas station.” She would go into the gas stations and ask. I love this part of the story too, Leanne, of your experience of getting hot water for our food.
I was like, “I think that they have hot water at the gas stations. I am not sure because I’ve never gotten it, but let’s find out.” I remember going in there with our reusable soup bowls in the reusable grocery bag and going in and standing there and being like, “Can I buy some hot water?” They would point at the hot water spigot. I would get hot water. I would come back and stand in line. They would look at me every time like, “You don’t have to pay for it.” I’m like, “Thanks.” Every time it always felt like such a gift. It feels weird going into place and taking something. I was always like, “I’m sure I have to pay for it this time.” Every single time they were so sweet. I probably looked weird with my soup bowls, but we got free hot water from every gas station and then made these soups. They were shockingly good. Both of us were still eating them after we got back.
Whitney sent me a picture eating another Dr. McDougall’s soup and you’re like, “This is still good.” I was like, “I had Annie Chun’s and it was still good.” It was amazing to find out that you can eat an entire meal on the road in the car. Those are about $2 or $1.50. I also found that Kapow! Noodle started making vegan options. Those are good too. We wanted to get veggies in fresh food for our third meal when possible, but Dr. McDougall’s ones had tons of a split pea soup and a black bean soup. They felt nourishing and hardy. When we went through Chicago, I stopped at the Chinatown grocery store and got some OG seitan, which is like wheat gluten in a jar, and put that in my Annie Chun’s for the last couple of days, which was satisfying. I was shocked at how easy it was for us to make two meals a day in the car.We are always on our way to something. Click To Tweet
The other thing is the difference between getting it from a gas station versus making it at home. Going back to what I started saying about gratitude, that gratitude that you have to be able to access hot water, which many of us take for granted. Because we are traveling in a car and camping and it was the pandemic, Leanne and I were trying to limit our exposure. Even going into the gas station felt risky, but she would bring in these stainless steel containers that we got from New Wave Enviro and they were incredible because they would insulate. They would keep the water hot so we could screw on a top to keep it from leaking and take the water with us or we could put our soup right in that container and cook it and it would stay warm in this container.
We then had to figure out how to clean it out. I had the greatest appreciation for water in general because not only do we need it to make these meals, but we also were constantly thinking about staying hydrated, especially the first few days of our trip when it was hot. That was another element of this trip that was interesting and completely unexpected was the weather. That was a huge challenge for us throughout each ten days was handling the weather. Staying hydrated, I think that we had these moments of concern that we didn’t have enough water. Because of the pandemic, it was this challenge of, “Where are we going to get water from?” I personally despise bottled water if it’s in plastic and glass bottles would have been tricky.
I thought about bringing my water filter with us, but we still needed a water source. Also, being unexperienced campers, there was a lot of questions about, “Do we pay extra to have water access to the campsites?” That was often an option, but I didn’t know what this water would be like so we opted not to, and then we had to get creative. One time, we filled up a water bottle at the gas station, but a number of times, we ended up filling up our water bottles at hotels. Since we were driving the Tesla, a lot of the charging stations across the country are at hotels or gas stations. It all worked out well. They’re generally at nice hotels like Marriott’s so I started to find this confidence to go into the hotels where the charging stations are based because the hotels get some kickback from having a charger there.
I was like, “Maybe if they’re making a few dollars off of us charging the car, it’s not that big of a deal.” We went in and found water filters at some hotels or water bubbler or drinking fountains. Sometimes, I would fill up there. We also had our LifeStraws. LifeStraw sent us these incredible new stainless-steel bottles that they came out with and they have straw inside. If you put any water, including from streams into these bottles, it’ll filter out things like parasites and bacteria. I felt completely fine filling it up with most water, even if it was from a drinking fountain. Normally, I’m super particular about my drinking water, but because we had the LifeStraws, it made it a lot easier.
We then had to think about touching all the surfaces so we would bring wipes in. We had some great wipes from this company called Combat Wipes that are meant for your body, but we use them multipurpose because they’re antibacterial. We would bring those with us if we went into a gas station or a hotel or any contact with a surface that other people have touched. We would hold it on door handles or faucets. That way, we could do things like getting water without worrying too much about getting the Coronavirus from a surface.
We had a whole hand cleaning station in the car, which also required some water. We have these amazing devices from this brand called Suds2Go. You fill up one side of it with water and the other side with foaming soap. We were able to wash our hands in the car or right outside the car. We had a towel that we had used to dry off. We also had a huge container of hand sanitizer. That combined with our masks, I felt like we were safe. Funny enough, I got a notification that my COVID test results are in. I was like, “Should I look at my results while doing the show?” I was not prepared for it and I want to record a video of me looking at my results. I’m not sure how to do that while doing the show.
A quick aside for that, we got into the East Coast on Sunday evening. Monday morning, I got up early, which was not a problem because Leanne and I got up early every day for ten days. I went and got a COVID test at a place about twenty minutes away from my parents. It was a drive-through COVID test and the results came maybe 50 or so hours after I got it. It hasn’t been quite three days. I have been monitoring myself and to go back to the beginning of this episode, I felt good. I felt like Leanne and I went the extra mile in a lot of ways to protect ourselves.
We did camp with a friend of Leanne’s, but there were physical distance and masks the whole time when we were outside. We saw one of my friends in Denver and that was entirely outside. I saw another person in Sioux Falls named Rachel, who I had never met before. We ended up getting there a lot later than we thought because we had been to the Badlands in South Dakota earlier. That changed our day a bit, but we ended up meeting at a natural market and did our best to stay apart. It was interesting too, meeting up with people and noticing different comfort levels with COVID.
Everybody was respectful, but that was on our minds a lot especially when we are meeting up with people like, “How do you set these boundaries for COVID?” We were both trying to be careful for ourselves and our family. We went camping with her family at one point, and that was a big consideration because we don’t want to get them sick. I think in a way that worked to our advantage. Being around other people, sometimes it’s easy to be a little bit more relaxed about something and if it’s only you at stake, but because both our parents were involved at some point on this trip, we were trying to be mindful not to get them sick. That caused us to be aware of our practices with COVID.
That’s a good point that when you think of the other people that you can get sick. A lot of people tend to think of themselves as strong and having less needs. When we think of other people that we care about, I knew we were going to see our parents, it does make it easy to be extra careful. It was interesting figuring out that everyone is respectful. We experimented a little bit by telling people ahead of time that we were being careful and then they would ask what that looked like. We then gave specific guidelines for nice pre-visit communication that everybody was on the same page and there wasn’t awkwardness at the moment.
I felt good about that. That was a good practice and experiment in figuring out what works. It’s a good metaphor for life, talking about something ahead of time as a nice way to get people on the same page and knowing that it’s not personal that I can’t hug you. This is a precaution that we’re taking, in case. If I got my parents sick or if you got your parents sick, I would never be able to forgive myself. I felt like we figured that out and it felt good.
Let’s talk about metaphors for life Leanne, because you provided such a wonderful segue into something that I want to ask you both, which is probably a more spiritual view of this experience. Being respectful of the fact that you both have only been home for a few days and are still recovering physically and proverbially speaking, digesting the experience. I suppose the overarching feeling of 2020 for me, and we both have had conversations about the lessons that are arising. I’m curious with this road trip from a perspective of upfront communication and communicating expectations and boundaries, but this idea that whether it’s our career track. As you are both exploring new things and branching out from the brands that you’ve been known for over a decade, myself included, how this experience as a microcosm of the macro of, “Maybe I have a plan or had an idea of how I thought my life was going to go. Is it even wise to make a plan? If we make a plan, do we have the courage to face the unknown? Do we have the ability to pivot and improvise when need be?”Life is like a road trip. You can either enjoy the view right now or hurry up and wait until you get to the next one. Click To Tweet
I am curious about the backdrop of this road trip and being together and the conversations you both had in the car, it sounds like a good some deep spiritual conversations, how that’s coloring your experience of navigating your self-identity, your career, and your relationships. I know this is a big question, but I want to dive in to it before we end this episode. How did the microcosm of this trip affect your macro view of what’s happening in your lives in the world now?
Two answers are bubbling up for me, but for some reason, it’s only one that I have clarity on. Something that came up for me when I took a trip with 40 vegans years ago to Las Vegas. We found that we were always trying to figure out where to go and always in transit. We rarely were doing the thing that we planned to do. There wasn’t a lot of time doing the things that we planned to do. We instead spent a lot of time on our way to something or figuring out something and that’s what first comes to mind. When you’re on a road trip, you’re spending most of your time on your way to something.
One thing that this trip taught me was this is what life is. We’re always on our way to something. If you choose carefully who you’re spending time with and who you’re on the way to something with, someone that you can explore life with and be awake with and respect their physical needs and their emotional needs and be on a journey with. That’s what we’re doing. We’re having transitions in our career. All of us, we’re exploring as you said, Jason, what’s next and who we are. Instead of feeling like we need to know or that we will know, that’s when we can start enjoying life. The fact that we’re always in transition truly, I know it feels obvious that everyone’s in transition, but we maybe always are in transition the same way that on a road trip, you’re always on your way to a new destination.
We can either enjoy the view and explore our feelings and thoughts or hurry up and wait until you get to the next one. I feel like Whitney and I got to enjoy a lot of it and be present and watch the world change around us and watch the world inside us change too. Seeing many things like the weather change from a 110-degree heatwave in Arizona to 23 degrees overnight in South Dakota and then raining in the Midwest, we go through all of those changes too. We can’t control our feelings and we have to let them pass through us. On our journey to discovering our next chapters in our life, we’re always changing. This trip helped me accept that, like the world and the weather is always changing. I realized that while answering your question so thank you for that amazing question. That helped me a lot.
It is interesting the uncertainty side of it and also the nature of side because one thing that we had talked about towards the beginning, but we didn’t address that much throughout the trip was how we wanted to savor nature. To your point, Jason, about Leanne and I both living in two of the biggest cities in the world, we’re not always as in nature as we would like to be. We’re surrounded by people. That was something I noticed too. When I dropped off Leanne in Brooklyn, I hadn’t been in New York for about a year and certainly not during the pandemic. I couldn’t believe how crowded it was in there. I forgot what New York was like, but certainly during a pandemic, I felt a little taken aback when I saw how many people were there.
One thing I’ve been noticing since I got to Massachusetts, my parents live in a small town and I’m relaxed more in nature. When I look back over our trip, we were so in nature in such unique ways. To Leanne’s point, that night that we were at the lake, it was 100 degrees and we’re seeing this incredible sunset and we’re in the sand. We got into the water at one point, and that was incredible. We then went into Colorado and it was stunning. We were driving through Moab as Jason and I did on our trip last year. It was also interesting to go through areas I had already been to a couple of times. I ended up crossing through a few parts of the country that I had been on in two other road trips.
It was my third time doing it and noticing what looked the same to me and what looked different and hearing all these stories about what’s going on with the fires on the West Coast and being out from that was interesting too. When we were in South Dakota, there’s snow on the ground. We were in awe of it, especially driving towards it. It was challenging at night, especially for Leanne because of the cold. We weren’t fully prepared for it because none of this was in the weather reports when we were planning. I remember checking the weather for every single location we plan to go to. Previous to those dates, it was clear skies and manageable weather. It was an unpredictable time. To Leanne’s point, that uncertainty is always there, but it’s a little bit different when you’re traveling and camping.
It’s a matter of your survival at some point. I woke up one night thinking, “I hope Leanne survived the night.” It was scary at times and I was worried about her. The plus side was that I remember when we finally embraced the snow, we were in complete awe of it. We could not stop talking about how gorgeous it was and how it looked on the trees. Being able to see nature go through all these changes in ten days was remarkable. We kept saying it was like we saw all four seasons in the ten-day trip because not only were we traveling through the country, but there was crazy weather happening during that time. That was a beautiful gift.
That also reminds me of your question, Jason. One of the big lessons that was pointed out to me and Leanne was by her friend, PJ, who we camped with. We were all sitting down to dinner. It was cool. It was the most traditional camp experience you could have because they both had their tents. PJ brought all this cool equipment, including one of those propane burners. We were heating up water in a little pot on a picnic table. It was neat. I can’t wait to edit the video because all of this is included. When we were with PJ, it was neat because we got to the campsite on the early side. We got to set up the tents and set up all the food. We had the burner so we could heat up our water on our own without going to the gas station.
Before that, we went to a grocery store and got some ice for our drinks. We had this whole picnic. Over the course of that meal, PJ said one of the most profound things that I heard on the trip, which was, “Some of the most memorable times of our lives are also the most stressful.“ It sounds like such a simple thing, but the context in which he was talking about that made so much sense to me. That helped me relaxed because I realized that any stress I experience on that trip is going to make the memory stronger. Whereas if that trip had been easy, we might’ve taken it for granted. If we had plenty of water, we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be grateful for every drop of water we had.
If we didn’t experience the temperature changes, we wouldn’t have been grateful for the days it was really hot or the times where we were nice and warm in the car or whatever. Even the nights, we were disappointed because we wanted to stargaze. The one night we had planned on stargazing was the night that the sky was cloudy and it was raining. I remember Leanne kept saying like, “It’s frustrating,” but we made the most of it. We ended eating an incredible meal that was brought to us to this campground in the rain and it was raining enough where we could sit outside without umbrellas. The next morning it was the same thing. We had breakfast under the drizzling sky. Normally, I would never do that. I don’t want to sit out in the rain, but we did that. That’s going to be one of the greatest memories that I have because it was vivid. Those little stress experiences made this trip fantastic. That’s how life is in general, but we don’t always think about it that way.
Apropos of this, I was watching a basketball game. It’s the Playoffs and someone made a comment. They said, “What do you get when you squeeze an orange?” They were like, “Orange juice.” They said, “Whenever there’s pressure, stress, challenge,” we’ve talked about the second force on this show, “You initiate something with great energy and intention and life responds with a challenge to you.” Whatever’s inside of you is coming out. Whenever you’re challenged or stressed, but it’s a wonderful thing to reflect on in the sense that I know during this time period, there have been moments that when I say what I’m about to say, I realized that I’m present. I’m curious if both of you feel this way.It is a deeply gratifying feeling to be present in the midst of nature. Click To Tweet
You talked about presence, Leanne. There’s a roof over my head and food on the table. I am surrounded by love and support and great friends. There are humans on this planet that are suffering extraordinary ways, but in terms of challenge and stress and the thing you brought up Whitney, and how these make great memories for us or, perhaps, put these into a deeper groove in our neurobiology. There have been moments where I was like, “Universe, life, I’m good. No more challenges, please. It’s all I can mentally take.” We’ve had these unbelievable wildfires in California, where when you walk outside, it’s difficult to breathe. Not as a counterpoint or devil’s advocate, Whitney, but I’m curious if either of you have experienced moments where you’re like, “Can we please have smooth sailing now? No more challenges. We’re good.”
I can’t think of any. I anticipated having car trouble, but the thing that happened to my car, I had never experienced with a car in the past. Luckily, you were there for me, Jason, as a car “expert” or someone more experienced with cars. It tested my stress levels. There were certainly moments where I felt stressed. That’s always such an interesting thing to think about because sometimes you’re irritated. It is like, “Why do I have to deal with this? Why can’t this go easy?” That came up for me before the trip started too. I remember thinking like, “I’ve done so much planning. Can’t this trip go smoothly? I don’t want all this planning to have been in vain.” It certainly wasn’t. I don’t have any regrets. There wasn’t anything too bad that happened that made me feel thrown off by it. How about you, Leanne?
It was that cold front. I was sleeping in a tent outside. We were outside all day, except in the car. It was intimate with nature, but it also showed me how powerful nature is. When we had gone through the first night, which went down to 37 degrees, that was cold and I was outside. I was like, “I have made it through the 37 degrees.” The next night, it was 23 degrees the whole night. I was like, “Am I going to make it through this night?” The third night was still in the 30s. I remember every day was like, “Is it going to be below freezing again?”
It was one of those things where we didn’t have a choice. I did cry once a day for a few of those days because when your basic physical needs are all uncertain, I hit a bit of a point of exasperation. When it started to get warmer again, and then it was just raining, even though I was a little frustrated it was raining because I wanted to stargaze with my dad, I was like, “At least it’s raining and it’s not freezing anymore.” You were talking about gratitude. We ended up coasting into the East Coast. We stopped maybe in Pennsylvania. We felt that crisp fall East Coast air. It was sweet and amazing.
I think that if I had stayed in Brooklyn the whole time and I had felt that 60-degree air, I would have been like, “It’s getting cold.” I would not have felt that joy and gratitude like that versus the rain versus the snow versus trying to sleep through freezing weather. I did hit that a few times and there was no other choice. We got through it and then it became a point of gratitude and contrast, which I’m grateful for, for sure.
It brings up this idea of resisting what is or surrendering to it and accepting what is. To get back to a lot of the core spiritual things that maybe we talk about, all three of us have had many deep spiritual conversations. It sounds like life is always giving us opportunities to accept what it is and surrender to it or be in resistance to it. Certainly, this road trip sounds like you had a few moments of like, “This isn’t exactly how we wanted it to go,” but there’s a lot of moments happening like that now where it’s, “This is not what I would like, but I’m in it.”
If I resist it and bemoan my existence and curse God or life or whatever it is, I’m certainly paying attention to any sort of energy of woe is me or feeling like a victim or this ought not to be happening, which is resistance. Resistance causes some interesting things to happen to us psychologically and physically. With everything that’s happening and all the uncertainty in the world, I want to go back to it because I want to get some final takeaways here. How are you both feeling in terms of your relationship to resistance or surrender in life? Has this trip and this experience colored that differently, changed it, or not at all?”
For me, being present and in relation to nature, being outside all day every day for ten days made me feel a lot rawer and open. It is making me feel more aware of resistance that I’m feeling, but also, there was so much surrender during the trip. It’s more top of mind and more of my experience. Whitney, how do you feel?
It’s cleared my mind in a lot of ways. One of the big gifts as Leanne was saying at the beginning, it is going to take a while to process it and that’s okay. I’m noticing myself wanting to dive right back into work and get into this fast pace and feeling internal pressure. I’m thinking, “Is that how I want to operate?” No. I don’t want to go about my day feeling stressed out, focused on work, worrying, and consumed with all of that. This trip took me away from a lot of those stresses because, in terms of time, I didn’t have a ton of time to work on this trip. That was a gift. I didn’t have as much time on my phone because I was driving.
We didn’t always have cell reception so there were nights that we couldn’t communicate with people at night. That was a gift. As Leanne was saying, it was an interesting experience of almost as if we didn’t have time to think. I remember reflecting on that statement as we were discussing it and I’m like, “What does she mean?” Leanne said that at one point and I was agreeing with her. I then reflected and tried to understand what that meant because we had so much time of sitting in the car and looking out the window. That felt like thinking, but it felt more like meditative thinking versus an overthinking and over-analyzing, trying to plan all the time and to have control. That surrender did take a play in all of these experiences, but also letting ourselves relax into that time versus feeling tense in that time. I’m still trying to find the word to describe it, but that’s the best way I can phrase it.
It was this sense of surrender. We’re on this ride and we’re seeing these things that we couldn’t predict we would see and we’re in this place and we should be here. I felt that. It was a sense of not having control over what’s going on or what we’re looking at or where we are, but just being there. It was different for my brain as well, like a meditative state. for sure.
There was a quote, but I don’t remember who it was. We love to share quotes. One thing with our mutual friendship between myself, Whitney and Leanne over the years, we certainly have sent each other not only book recommendations but quotes and we’re always sharing resources with each other, which is one of my favorite aspects of our mutually shared friendship that’s grown so much and continues to. One of the quotes that I saw was, “We are breaking our collective addiction to certainty.” In reflecting on the spirituality, philosophy, and things we like to dive into, it’s interesting that this was a part, at least I’m perceiving from the outside. I wasn’t on the road trip with you guys, but I am hearing the beautiful retelling of your journey here on the show. We will share additional details in future episodes.The world is always changing. We are always changing. We need to accept that as a fact of life. Click To Tweet
It sounds to me that we are all collectively having experiences, choosing experiences to help us see reality more clearly. My personal opinion is that, life is ever-changing. The only certainty we have is change. Everything else is uncertain and having these kinds of experiences of your road trip and some of the experiences we’ve had with our careers, our businesses, our identity, who we are, what we’re doing, and our inner work is certainly showing all of us that we’re more resilient maybe than we thought. We have the ability to improvise and make decisions on the fly that even though we’ve made plans and we’ve done things and desire specific outcomes that if those specific outcomes don’t happen, we can surrender to what it is and say, “What am I to do now? What does reality want for me?”
Personally, I love being on the receiving end of the stories, ladies. I know there’s a lot more. We only probably scratched the surface, but I’m sharing my appreciation for having a deep reconnect with you both after this ten-day trip and you settling in. I hope we all get to do a big trip together at some point. There’s been some talk of relocation that’s probably best for future episodes. in conclusion, I know there are more adventurous to come.
Jason, I have one final question that only you can answer, which was one of the big mysteries on our entire trip. It kept coming up over and over again. Leanne and I have not found a conclusive answer to this question. Maybe you will be able to answer it. That question is when did Leanne and I first meet? She thinks it was with you. Leanne, you might need to describe this time that you thought I was with you, but I don’t think I was there, but maybe Jason will have the final answer.
Whenever we would meet up with someone, they would always ask, “How did you two meet?” We would be like, “We have different ideas.” I thought it was when I had a pop-up with Joshua Katcher, The Discerning Brute for Vogue for my brand at Mohawk Bend.
Yes, in 2013.
I swear you both were there. That was the first time we met. That is what I remember distinctively. I remember watching the two of you interact and noticing the two of you together and also then hanging out. What’s even crazier? In my mind, I picture a photo booth photo with Whitney and that might be made up. When I had my Vipassana in 2019, I started to question all of my memories. Maybe Jason can tell me if my memory is completely off.
I know for sure Leanne, that is when you and I met in person for the first time. We knew of each other through the vegan community and being heavily involved. Whitney and I were dating at that time. I know we were there together. I don’t know if that’s the first time you met Whitney, but Whitney and I were there as a pair at that time.
I have zero memory of this. I keep thinking about a time that you saw Leanne and Joshua without me, Jason, but maybe that was a separate year. I feel like what happened to my brain that forgot this memory that you both remember. Do we have photographic evidence of this? Do we need to dig through the archives?
I’m going to go through my iPhone. I have evidence that I was there because I still have my blue and yellow, “Vote Brooklyn,” tank top. I still have the tank top I bought at that pop-up.
We all wore our tank tops on the roof at the PETA LA fashion pop-up a year later or something. I have that picture, for sure.
For you, dear readers, if you want to learn more about what Leanne is up to in the world and all the amazingness she is creating because we don’t know what’s next Leanne, but everything you touch is always wonderful and infused with much love, intention, and creativity. I know there’s much more, Leanne. We have this mutual friendship, the three of us where we will keep going deeper and deeper. There’s just no end to it. That is certainly one of my most cherished and lovely aspects of our friendship. It’s been wonderful to get into it. I feel like we need to have you on again because I feel incomplete and that’s okay. I surrender to my incompleteness.
I totally agree because we have to talk a lot about function and the specific elements of the trip and all of the structure to it. There’s a lot for us to discuss around a lot of things in life and I would love to discuss sometime soon.
To piggyback on what Jason said, Leanne will say that I’m shocked that after ten days with you that we still have much more to discuss. I thought, “We’re going to get talked out. We’re going to discuss everything and we’re going to feel satisfied.” Even after ten days with you, I felt like you and I could have talked and talked. There’s much to discuss. Jason, I think that you need to do a ten-plus-day trip with Leanne too. You’ll probably find the same thing I did at the end, which is it never feels enough time with her. Even two episodes probably won’t be enough with you, Leanne, because you have so much on your heart to share and we’re grateful. I’m grateful you did that trip with me and that you came on the show, even though we’re both still recovering. I wanted to do this when we were fresh so it’ll be interesting to do this again in the future when we’ve had more time to process.
I agree. You’re one of the most incredible planners I’ve ever met in my life. It was insane. I’m watching you do your thing and being a witness to the result of that. When I couldn’t sleep too well, I’d have to nap in the car and stuff, but I would have things come up in my brain where I would be like, “This would be fun to talk about with Whitney.” There are whole discussions that I’ve probably backlogged that we could talk much more about. There is so much more to talk about. I’m looking forward to coming back on and discuss all the things.
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About Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart
A lifelong animal activist and vegan for 20 years, Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart (@LeanneMaily on Instagram) is a pioneer entrepreneur in the vegan fashion space, named “A Gamechanger, embodying courage, creativity, and conviction” by Conde Nast, the “Rebel of Fashion Week” by CNN, “paving the way for future compassionate designers” U.S. News & World Report, a “fashion mogul without compromising morals” NYLON, and “Most Influential Designer” by PETA. Her brand VAUTE was also named “one of the most innovative businesses in NYC” BusinessInsider, which “proves animal-free fashion can be cute, chic and sexy” Oprah, and which in its 12 years has saved about 44,000 geese, 3,000 Sheep, recycled approx. 265,000 plastic bottles, diverted approx. 60,000 yards of industrial fabric, supported hundreds of local NYC (and Chicago) artisans and spoke out for animals in the mainstream press.
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